This month brings a special day to honor fathers - men who have the privilege and responsibility of providing for, educating, protecting, guiding, challenging and encouraging children. I shared this insight and challenge a few years ago and am now seeing fatherhood with fresh eyes as my son has stepped into this role. It’s exciting for me as his mother to watch as he discovers the impact he has on the life of his little daughter. Children from infants to adults are bombarded with countless influences and need to know where to turn for sound guidance. Who will lead them down the right path? Who will be there to walk alongside and offer a hand when they need help? Who will caution them if they stray off course? Who will love them unconditionally, reflecting the same love God has for us as his children? Fathers can play that important role in the lives of children and we encourage them to embrace the challenge and do all they can to raise their children up to be successful adults. We charge them with the task of being the leader of their home and positive role model of a healthy, balanced, responsible individual. That opportunity carries both privilege and responsibility. I know many of you are stepping up to the plate and accepting the challenge, determined to do your best to care for your children. I applaud your desire, and I also offer a word of caution. Don’t become so focused on providing for your children physically or financially that you miss opportunities to connect with them emotionally and spiritually. Our father-child relationship has a powerful impact on our other relationships and on our own development. Our connection with the world around us, our self esteem and our ability to cope with the challenges of life are impacted by that relationship. Even our vision of God as our Heavenly Father is influenced by the relationship we have with our earthly father. The nurturing instinct often found in mothers lends itself to responding naturally to the needs of their children. Opportunities present themselves frequently to cultivate that connection and influence their lives. Fathers, on the other hand, must be certain they balance the desire to protect and provide for their family along with time to bond with their children and share their life experiences. Dads, here are a few tips to encourage a strong connection between you and your children. Consider how you can foster a positive relationship with your children physically, emotionally and spiritually, no matter what their age. • Spend one-on-one time with each of your children. • Show interest in and respect for what’s important to them. • Encourage them to share their school experiences, discoveries, concerns, successes, even their failures, not just their grades. Acknowledge their thoughts with compassion and give direction rather than mere judgment. • Find an activity that they express interest in and join them. Let the emphasis be on having fun. • Let them work along side you in the garage, around the house, with the car. Teach them what they’ll need to know as they take on those adult responsibilities. • Share meals at the table. • Talk to them about financial stewardship. • Explain why you have the rules and expectations you have for them. • Recognize the power of the first and last thoughts of the day. Rather than criticism or punishment, let your first and last words that linger in their minds be positive affirmation. • Hug your children. • Be available when they need you. • Tell them about God’s love for them and his desires for their lives. Pray with them and for them. • Tell them you love them. Then show them you mean it in ways they’ll understand. Heads up, Dads. Your children are growing up more quickly than you may realize. Amidst the busyness of your own life, give them the gift of your active, caring presence. It’s a priceless expression of God’s love through you. And grandfathers, consider these same tips as you look for opportunities to be another positive male influence in the lives of your grandchildren. Happy Father’s Day! Nancy Williams, LPC is a licensed counselor, coach, speaker, and author of Secrets to Parenting Your Adult Child (Bethany House, 2011). Send comments or questions to her at www.nancywilliams.net

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